LOS ANGELES - The first thing Stephanie Abrams does when she visits a new city is find a place to stay. That's not so unusual except her lodging of choice is a parking garage, concrete bunker or any other structure that can take the brunt of a hurricane.
When others are running from nature's wrath, Abrams and a film crew from the Weather Channel are heading to the heart of the storm. The Florida native started at the cable channel in 2003 and has become one of its top meteorologists, whether filling in for Al Roker at "Today" or standing in the path of a hurricane to provide live coverage.
Field reports always start the same way.
"We hit up Walmart and get all our food and water and load up all of our cars, not knowing how long we're going to be there," Abrams says. "Then we just go find a sturdy building."
Supplies always include Strawberry Pop-Tarts and Garden Salsa SunChips, or anything that can be eaten cold.
In this age of fancy technology, having a reporter stand in the path of a storm doesn't seem necessary. Footage of buildings flying through the air or trees bent to the ground are sufficient to show nature's force.
Abrams wants to be on the storm front because she believes it makes her a better meteorologist. For her, being on location isn't just about understanding the weather better - it gives her a better handle on how those who live in the area deal with the weather.
"I can empathize and sympathize and tell them how to prepare better because I've lived it," Abrams says. "I had someone come up to me after Katrina. I think I was in Rita. He came up to me and had his little girl. He's like, 'Steph, I have my ax. We're going to ride this out. In case we have to cut ourselves out of the roof.'
"I can't tell this person what to do, obviously. But I highly advise against it, and that's all I can do is say, 'Listen. We're forecasting the surge to be this. If your house is here, there's a potential. I would say evacuate,' and you just do the best you can like that. You can't force people to leave. Nobody can."
As for her own evacuation plan, Abrams and her crew make that call. If the weather conditions get to the point where they think it is too dangerous to stay, they can leave.
Abrams has such a passion for reporting the weather you'll probably never see her run from a storm. The self-described science geek has been fascinated with the forces of nature ever since she was 13 and saw the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
"I saw all the destruction and remember thinking to myself, 'How did rain and wind do all of that?'" Abrams says.
A few years later, at the University of Florida, Abrams still was uncertain what she wanted to do as a career so she took a variety of science classes. It was a meteorology class that proved the most fascinating and that became the basis for her weather-forecasting career, which started with the ABC affiliate in Tallahassee.
Her work at the Weather Channel keeps her indoors most of the time, but Abrams prefers to get outside to enjoy a beautiful summer day or stare into the building clouds of an approaching storm. At home or in the field, Abrams just can't get enough weather information.
"I remember when the snow was going to come into Atlanta this past year, I got about an hour of sleep. I was up just looking at the radar," Abrams. "The last big hurricane I covered (before Irene) was Ike, and you couldn't sleep because it was raging all night. We were stuck in an elevator shaft that was the most secure spot we could find."
At least she had plenty of Pop-Tarts and SunChips.